The Project Manager’s “No Swerve Zone”

Projects can have a lot of moving parts and a lot of people making decisions that impact those moving parts.  People come with their own set of parts, including their personalities, their productivity and their ability to work well with others in a team environment. Some of these complications are just the way things are, but not all of them.  Seems like there are areas where we can try to simplify our projects and avoid being like those drivers who create a lot of noise when they swerve into another lane while making a simple left turn

Watching this driving style got me thinking about the projects I am working on and the people who are members of the project team. Perhaps this need to over-complicate things extends into the project and people realm at work has the same source as people who turn by using your “right of way” lane when the turn lane doesn’t seem big enough.  Why is it that a simple turn becomes so difficult to accomplish in a simple way?  Why is it that a simple project task becomes so difficult to complete on time and within its scope? Why do some people just make things more complicated than they need to be?

Some people come with the built-in ability to take the shortest, most efficient path to their goals.  Other people seem to complicate things for themselves and for others on their way to the same finish line.  I read an interesting article about how effective leaders can keep things simple.  Authored by Elizabeth Cipolla, the article “Don’t Overcomplicate Your Leadership” points out three simple ways for project leaders to stay focused and follow the simple path.

1. Just act. When people make a mistake, discuss what happened and find a solution with the individual or with the team. Then you can move on and get the real work done for your project.

2. Shut up.  Listen to your team and to your people. Sometimes their ideas about what we are doing and how we are doing it are the right way (and the simplest way) to get ‘er done on our projects.

3. React to fact. Watch the emotion and react to the facts and the logic of the situation versus the emotions that can get in the way of effective decision-making and problem-solving on our projects.

My car driving experiences lately have been entertaining to say the least.  I have watched other drivers take simple turns to the left or the right and make them into overly complicated efforts. This is especially true when they swerve out of their turn lane into my lane and force me to swerve my own vehicle in order not to have a collision. What’s up with these folks?  I think they need to “react to fact” and stay in their own turn lane for everyone’s sake and safety!

Happy simplification and welcome to the project’s “no swerve” zone!

Susan Weese

Reference:  Cipolla, Elizabeth, “Don’t Overcomplicate Your Leadership”, The Post Journal, 22 September 2013,  retrieved from

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